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Near 94

Yesterday, I was kind of busy with my Dad so I don’t have much to say today.

Commentary’s Dad turns 94 a month from today. How about that?

Like folks that reach 94, they have to deal with real issues.

It seems like these days, I learn something new every day related to my Dad. Exams, tests, assessments, appointments….. you name it.

Yesterday, my Dad and I spent half of the day together.   The good thing about this is I didn’t get to watch the O.J. deal. I was spared.

It is never boring hanging with my Dad, though.

My sister and her family’s business made it to Fortune again.  Here is how it starts:

Miguel Garza knows that, statistically, the deck is stacked against a startup  like the one he runs.

While Latino-owned businesses account for 12% of all small businesses in the U.S. and grow two-and-a-half times faster than the average U.S. business, these companies — and their leaders — face a dearth of capital and a ceiling on revenue. According to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, less than 1% of startups funded by venture capitalists have a Latino founder. And just 2% of all Latino-owned businesses see revenues north of $1 million.

Garza’s business, the grain-free tortilla maker Siete Family Foods, has beaten those odds, securing outside investors and achieving seven-digit revenue figures in the three years since launching Siete in 2014. It’s a fact that the 29-year-old CEO attributes to good fortune (“we’ve been blessed to work with really good people who have helped us grow,” he says), and also some ingenuity.

“We had never pitched a business before,” he says of his team, which is also his family (Siete is named for the seven Garza family members, six of whom are involved in the company). Because of this, and because of the general lack of access to capital for Latino businesses, he says, the Garzas prominently featured their educational backgrounds in their investor presentations when they were just starting out.

Check out the story here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2017/07/13/how-one-under-30-overcame-the-barrier-to-funding-for-latino-owned-businesses/#569db7ce2a46.

Nice.

We all know Donald Trump did deals with the Russians. It should not surprise us that he is trying to stop the Special Counsel from looking into his Russian deals. It also should not surprise us if he uses his pardoning powers to save his family and associates. It also also should not surprise us that the GOP leadership is gutlessly and cowardly standing with Trump – for now.

We are in B’More for three this weekend.

Dunkirk

HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez left us yesterday. Here is from the Chron: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/houston/article/Houston-ISD-Trustee-Manny-Rodriguez-dies-11299894.php.

The much anticipated “Dunkirk” opens this evening nationwide. The director of the flick is Christopher Nolan who brought us The Dark Knight Trilogy. Here is from the headline of the online review in Rolling Stone:

‘Dunkirk’ Review: Christopher Nolan’s WWII Epic May Be the Greatest War Film Ever

Filmmaker’s recreation of key British battle is stunning, stirring – and a stone-cold masterpiece

The movie trailer caught my interest a few months ago. They say “Dunkirk” should be seen on the IMAX screen. The movie also comes in at under two hours – very good.   I have found that a lot of younger folks I have talked to about “Dunkirk” know absolutely zilch about what happened in Dunkirk in 1940.   I learned about it in high school when we were taught about World War II. Maybe they don’t teach it anymore or maybe as some younger person pointed out to me is we don’t know about it because it happened a year and a half before we – the USA – got into World War II. Folks are going to know now.

It is on my list of flicks to see soon.

On the “greatest war film ever” line, I will just compare to WW II flicks. My fav is “Saving Private Ryan” but it didn’t win best pic at the Oscars. The two that did are “Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Patton.” We will see.

What the heck, I will throw in another fav, “The Dirty Dozen.” It got four Oscar nominations.

Here is from Rebecca Elliott’s article on the latest on the City of H-Town Public Works Director who is on a paid leave of absence:

Mayor Sylvester Turner declined to provide a timeline Wednesday for his review of the Houston Public Works director’s conduct, but said his assessment is underway in light of revelations that the longtime public contractor made unlawful payments to an elected official awaiting sentencing on a federal bribery charge.

Karun Sreerama, whom the mayor placed on paid leave last week, paid $77,143 to longtime Houston Community College trustee Chris Oliver in three installments between late 2010 and mid-2013, when Sreerama owned a private engineering firm.

Oliver was indicted for allegedly extorting Sreerama, but the acting U.S. attorney agreed to dismiss that charge in exchange for Oliver’s guilty plea to a separate bribery charge, court records show. 

Turner reiterated that he was unaware of the situation prior to appointing Sreerama in March. 

“I’ll take the necessary time to thoroughly vet it to make sure that no additional shoes are going to fall and that I have all the information I need to make a good decision for the city,” Turner said. “Public works is important, and perceptions are important.”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Turner-continuing-to-vet-public-works-director-11300446.php.

Well if “perceptions are important”, he’s a goner. I don’t know of a single person other than his lawyer who says he should stay on.

I am skipping the MLB question today as our lead is now 15 ½ games with 67 to go and we are off today then start a 9 game roadie in B’More tomorrow and we are 33-11 away from The Yard. Got it?

We don’t play at The Yard again until the last day of this month when we host the Rays.

0 for 2

Commentary watched Northside neighborhood activists express their disgust yesterday at the latest on the murder of Josue Flores last year. HPD is 0 for 2 on arrests on this case. Here is from the Chron:

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office dropped the murder charge against a homeless man accused in the brutal stabbing death last year of 11-year-old Josue Flores – the second suspect freed in a case that shook the north Houston community.

First Assistant District Attorney Tom Berg announced Tuesday that DNA evidence and blood analysis were inconclusive for Andre Timothy Jackson, 29, who was arrested June 3, 2016, in the death of the Marshall Middle School student.

But Jackson, a Marine veteran, remains a suspect, Berg said.

“We have received DNA analysis which makes it impossible for us to go forward at this time with a case that we think we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Berg said. “The results of the DNA and blood analysis are at best inconclusive, and in some respects, exclude him as a suspect.”

And this:

Jackson’s attorney, Jerome Godinich, who attended the Tuesday press conference, said he is sure that Jackson is innocent.

“Since about November of last year, my office and myself were convinced that Mr. Jackson could not have committed this offense,” Godinich said. “We were waiting for those results from the DNA, and frankly, I was not surprised.”

He said staffers in his office had gone through surveillance videos and witness statements to reach their conclusions.

And finally this:

Soon after the announcement, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted out a statement saying he had spoken with Flores’ family and that the department was treating the case as an “ongoing murder investigation.” He pledged to “devote whatever resources needed” to close the case.

“Our homicide detectives believed then and continue to believe that Mr. Jackson is the suspect in the case.”

That kind of has a very hollow ring to it if you ask me.   0 for 2, fella!

Here is the entire read: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Josue-Flores-case-Murder-charge-dropped-against-11297298.php?ipid=hpctp.

Ever since they banned glass from our green bins, Commentary has lost a bit of confidence in H-Town’s Solid Waste Department.   They also don’t run a very efficient recycling drop-off location down the street either.   It doesn’t surprise me that the latest deal on the recycling contract has problems. See here from the Chron:

Houston City Council members blasted a proposed 20-year recycling deal Tuesday, questioning the $48 million price tag, the process by which the winning bidder was chosen and Turner administration officials’ reluctance to share information about the deal.

The proposal on the council’s Wednesday agenda would have Houston send all 65,000 tons of bottles, cans and boxes its citizens recycle annually to a new processing facility to be built in northeast Houston by Spanish firm FCC Environmental.

In the city’s request for recycling proposals, documents repeatedly envisioned the contract term as running 10 years, with up to two five-year extensions. FCC, however, was the sole vendor allowed to submit a proposal using a 15-year initial term, with one five-year option; competing vendors said they would have submitted 15-year bids if they had known their proposals would not be rejected.

Some council members also questioned why FCC’s prices had been evaluated favorably when its per-ton fee for processing the city’s recyclables was the second-highest figure among the four responsive bidders. Those concerns were heightened when one of the losing bidders, Dean Gorby of Independent Texas Recyclers, said he had proposed a $63-per-ton fee and had no idea why the city had represented his bid as $76 per ton to the council.

“It just doesn’t smell right,” Councilman Dave Martin told administration officials at a Tuesday committee hearing. “If I were you, I’d go back to square one.”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Council-members-push-back-against-recycling-11297934.php.

I wonder how the item will fare at today’s City Council meeting?

Carlos Correa was having a MVP type of season and now he is out for 6 to 8 weeks for thumb ligament surgery.   This is the headline in the sports section of today’s Chron hard copy: Simply thumb-struck. Cute, maybe, but not appropriate if you ask Commentary.

We won yesterday and are back to 16 ½ up with 68 games to go.

No MLB question today.

Governor Santa

How many World Serious titles has the state of New York won?

“He’s making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”

Greg Abbott had decided he’s Santa Claus. Here is from the Trib:

Gov. Greg Abbott said that he would publicly call out lawmakers who didn’t support his 20-item legislative agenda while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick came out swinging against House leadership during Monday appearances on the eve of Texas’ special legislative session.

Abbott said he would aggressively hold lawmakers accountable for their positions on his legislative agenda and encouraged others to do the same. 

“I’m going to be establishing a list,” he said in remarks before the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. “We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis to call people out — who is for this, who is against this, who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide.”

Here is the entire Trib story: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/07/17/abbott-property-taxes-are-top-issue-special-session/.

If you ask Commentary, this kind of stuff tends to hurt the GOP from the inside.   Abbott can’t be the hammer-in-chief. Members need to pay attention to the folks back home.

Commentary has said it before. The following is brought to you by the folks who jumped on the Mayor’s bandwagon early on over a couple of years ago. Here is from the Chron:

Houston firefighters delivered over 32,000 signatures to City Hall on Monday in support of asking voters in November to mandate parity in pay between firefighter and police officer ranks, a maneuver that could threaten the city’s plans to sell $1 billion in bonds as part of its pension reform plan.

While the two measures are unrelated, both are tied to firefighters’ displeasure with the Turner administration.

As such, a unified voting bloc of firefighters during what is expected to be a low-turnout election in November could spell trouble for Mayor Sylvester Turner’s signature pension reform plan, and potentially thrust the city back into the fiscal quagmire Turner spent his first year in office trying to escape.

“If one issue is a five-alarm fire, both together are a 10-alarm fire,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

And this:

Houston political consultant Nancy Sims said voters are likely to pass the pay parity referendum.

“People just like their firefighters; they’re heroes,” she said. “It’s very hard when firefighters start pushing something to the broader public for it to not succeed.”

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Firefighters-deliver-32-000-signatures-to-put-pay-11295180.php.

I don’t know if I agree with my friend Nancy on this. I will say this. If it gets on the ballot, I assume there will be an organized effort against the measure. These folks need to make sure they don’t look like they are assaulting firefighters if you know what I mean. I can’t help but think that there will be some bad blood afterwards.

The state of New York has 35 World Serious titles of course: 27 for the Yankees, 5 for the Giants, 2 for the Mets, and 1 for the Dodgers.

The burial for Carlos Beltran’s glove yesterday was cute.   Not scoring in the bottom of the ninth wasn’t. We should have won last night.

What Housing

How many of the current ‘Stros are hitting .300 plus?

How can you be a big city newspaper and not have an editorial cartoonist? Just saying!

On July 7, Commentary said this:

The Chron has another front page story by Rebecca Elliott and Mike Morris on the problems at the City of H-Town’s housing agency.   The question Commentary has is how come nobody ever gets fired over there?

And this:

Can anyone tell Commentary where the buck stops on this mess? Oh, well!

Well, the Chron’s Elliott and Morris team had another front pager yesterday on the housing agency. Here are parts:

Despite repeatedly promising to address Houston’s affordable housing needs, city officials sat for years on more than $30 million in voter-approved housing bonds with little intention of using them.

Three times in the last 16 years, voters have agreed to let the city take on new debt to demolish blighted buildings, repair seniors’ homes or build new subsidized apartments.

Of the $53 million they approved, however, Houston issued and spent just $21 million, while the number of low-income families facing housing burdens grew by tens of thousands.

As of this month, some 44,000 families were on a waiting list for subsidized housing through the Houston Housing Authority alone.

Meanwhile, city officials have left roughly $3 million in housing bond proceeds furnished by local economic development zones unspent, allowing millions in interest to accumulate on the balance.

Even the bond money from those zones that Houston did spend often went to initiatives that lacked guarantees homes would remain affordable for low-income families for any period of time, let alone the decades it would take the zones to pay off their debt.

“It’s a failure of the city to invest in affordable housing,” Washington, D.C. lawyer and former federal housing official Sara Pratt said.

So why in the heck do we have a housing agency?

Here is more that is a bit disingenuous:

Despite receiving voter approval to issue $53 million in housing bonds since 2001, little more than half of the 2001 and 2006 bonds and none of the 2012 bonds have been used.

Former Mayor Annise Parker acknowledged she asked voters to sign off on the latest housing bonds with little intention of spending them.

“You need to have affordable housing on there as part of the package so that it’s sellable out in the community,” said Parker, recalling the political pressure she received from lawmakers and community leaders. “I don’t want to say that we did it with the expectation of not using it, but that’s in essence what we did.”

Now that’s how you get folks to have faith and trust in H-Town City Hall. I wonder if she is ever to going to run for office again?

And more:

Parker said Houston has not issued more housing debt in large part because it devoted most of its limited borrowing capacity to parks, police stations and community centers.

“We had higher priorities,” she said. “If you ask a district council member, ‘Do you want a new roof on your library, do you need new bathrooms in your community center in your park, or do you want more affordable housing’ what do you think they’re going to ask for?”

I wonder if Elliott and Morris will ask the 11 district council members that question?

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/City-sits-on-bond-funds-despite-affordable-11290134.php?cmpid=btfpm.

Like I said, why do we have a housing agency?

Carol and I shared in snagging a foul ball Friday night.  She kept the ball – cool.

Jose Altuve is hitting .350, Carlos Correa .321, Marwin Gonzalez .311, Josh Reddick .309, and SpringerDinger .306 of course and that is why we are at 62-30 with a 16 ½ game lead with 70 games left on the schedule.

Pasadena, Again

How many games are we ahead for home field advantage in the American League playoffs?

Folks know how Commentary feels about the City of Pasadena continuing to appeal the voting rights case against them. Here is part of Mike Snyder’s article today on the matter:

It’s a question every Vegas roulette player and weekend poker-game enthusiast eventually faces: Should I cut my losses or go for broke?

A legal dispute over civil rights and fair elections, of course, shouldn’t be regarded as a game of chance. But as Pasadena’s mayor and city council consider whether to continue appealing a judge’s decision in a voting rights lawsuit, they’re struggling to calculate the best way to contain their legal fees. Either option available to them is a gamble.

In an executive session during a recent meeting, newly installed Mayor Jeff Wagner and council members discussed Patino v. Pasadena, the 2014 lawsuit that challenged a new council structure created in a charter change election. Last January, U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal found that the creation of two at-large, or citywide, positions intentionally diluted Latino voting strength. She ordered the city to use the old system of eight single-member district seats in this year’s election.

The city appealed. Wagner, a councilman and retired Houston police officer who won the election to succeed term-limited Mayor Johnny Isbell, said during the campaign that he would consult with the council before deciding whether to continue the appeal. Almost two weeks after Wagner took office, the question remains unanswered.

Aside from considering which council system serves the city better, the mayor and council must take into account the mounting costs of the litigation. Pasadena has already paid more than $2.5 million to its outside attorneys.

But there’s a complication: Under federal law, if the plaintiffs prevail, the city would be on the hook for their legal fees in addition to its own. The five Latino Pasadena residents who filed the lawsuit have been represented without charge by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/columnists/greater-houston/article/Legal-fees-figure-in-decision-on-Pasadena-voting-11287433.php.

Pasadena just went through an election without the at-large positions in play and the city government survived. Things are going to be ok in Pasadena. The all single member district system didn’t seem to overturn the cart. Just move on and leave this chapter of your history behind. It will be worth it in the long run.

The HCC Trustees did all they could do yesterday by voting to formally censure their colleague who pleaded guilty to bribery. There is nothing to report from H-Town City Hall on this matter. Like I said, I have not been enlightened.

Commentary hasn’t been saying much about Don Jr. and the Russians. What’s the point? We all know they are liars.

Don’t believe me? See this from today’s Statesman:

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, has some advice for President Donald Trump: throw your adult kids out of the White House.

“I’m going out on a limb here, but I would say I think it would be in the president’s best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House. Not only Donald Trump (Jr.), but Ivanka and Jared Kushner,” he told Bryan TV station KBTX. “I wish that he would get them out of the way so that we could have professional staff at the White House handle policy issues.”

Yeah, good luck!

The ‘Stros have a 10 game lead over the Red Sox for AL home field advantage of course.

Commentary is thinking good crowds will show up at The Yard this weekend.

Not Enlightened

Commentary said this yesterday about the doings over at H-Town City Hall on the payments made by a City of H-Town honcho to a HCC trustee who pled guilty to bribery:

Now what am I missing here? If you are a vendor who has government contracts or want government contracts and if an elected official tries to shake you down, you can either make illegal payments, you can tell the elected official to go f__k-off, or you can go to the authorities and rat out the elected official and risk never getting a government contract again because elected officials and governments don’t like to do business with a rat. In this case, he made illegal payments to the elected official so what is there to review and what hard questions should be asked? Who thinks paying off an elected official is proper, acceptable and A-Okay? Like I said, what am I missing here? Enlighten me, please.

Nobody took the time to enlighten me and this is from the Chron’s Rebecca Elliott and Mike Morris:

Houston’s Public Works director will vacate his post temporarily following revelations that he made unlawful payments to a Houston Community College trustee now awaiting sentencing on a federal bribery charge.

Karun Sreerama paid $77,143 to longtime HCC trustee Chris Oliver in three installments between late 2010 and mid-2013, when Sreerama owned a private engineering firm. Federal authorities say Oliver was leveraging his power to influence the awarding of HCC business contracts.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday he was unaware of the criminal case or Sreerama’s involvement prior to this week. Turner added that he spoke with the public works director during a “brief telephone call” before placing him on paid administrative leave.

And here is how it ends:

On the bribery charge, Oliver pleaded guilty to taking $12,000 in payments, promising to use his position to help secure contracts with the community college system. The acting U.S. attorney has agreed to dismiss the extortion charge against Oliver in exchange for his guilty plea on the bribery indictment, court records show.

Sreerama’s attorney, Chip Lewis, said Tuesday Oliver threatened to block Sreerama’s firm from getting contracts with the college system. He clarified that statement the next day, saying Sreerama’s firm never needed Oliver’s vote to secure contracts, and that Oliver’s alleged requests were framed in terms of friendship: “I’ll never forget what a friend you’ve been to me; you’re a friend and I’ll support you as a friend.”

Oliver solicited funds from Sreerama three times, Lewis said, and received three checks from Sreerama in return.

Lewis described how the payments were made: The first two were made because Oliver claimed he was going through a costly divorce, and then claimed he needed funds to complete the process of adopting a child. Both payments were presented as loans and were not repaid. The third payment took the form of an exorbitant fee Oliver charged after his company cleaned the parking lot at Sreerama’s business.

Authorities confronted Sreerama in March 2014, seven months after he made the last of the three payments to Oliver, Lewis said.

“He’s guilty of a bad decision,” he said. “There’s no criminal activity in him loaning money to a friend and actually paying far more than he should have for a sweeping of his parking lot. The only thing Karun is guilty of is being kind-hearted. Karun isn’t a guy going around trying to grease people; never was.”

Wendell Odom Jr., a local criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said the boundaries in this case aren’t that clear. Someone who took similar actions could have been charged as a co-conspirator, Odom added.

“He acquiesced to the shakedown, so he participated in it,” Odom said, adding that people should report extortion attempts to authorities.

Craig McDonald, executive director of Austin nonprofit Texans for Public Justice, said the payments simply should never have occurred.

“It’s pretty hard to swallow that that kind of money passed just because of friendship and good-naturedness,” McDonald said. “That situation is not credible with the general public.”

Over the years, Sreerama has been a prolific political donor, predominantly to Democrats, and was a key supporter of Turner’s 2015 mayoral bid. His family contributed a combined $20,000 to Turner’s runoff campaign. He also has contributed to the campaigns of seven of the 16 sitting council members: Green, Ellen Cohen, Amanda Edwards, Brenda Stardig, David Robinson, Jack Christie and Jerry Davis.

Until the Sreerama’s job status is resolved, Turner said deputy Public Works director Carol Haddock will lead the department during Sreerama’s leave, returning to the role she held in the weeks before Sreerama assumed the post earlier this year.

Cohen said she could see Sreerama resuming his leadership role with the city.

“As far as I’m concerned with the information I have to date, I believe that he’s in a position, once everything is discussed, to continue to do a credible job,” Cohen said.

Others were more skeptical. Councilman Greg Travis said he does not believe Sreerama should stay on.

“The moment somebody sits there and comes to you with something illegal, you say no and go right to the authorities,” Travis said. “That’s probably the most important spot next to mayor in the entire city, and if you’re compromised on ethics, how can you stay there? I don’t care how competent you are.”

Councilman Mike Knox, too, was doubtful.

“My question is: If you’re willing to do that as a contractor, might then you also be willing to accept a payment?”

Here is the entire article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Public-Works-director-who-made-unlawful-payments-11284898.php?cmpid=btfpm.

This is from Bill King:

Bill King‏@BillKingForHou 21m21 minutes ago

Replying to @rfelliott

A person who pays a bribe is not a victim.

And:

Bill King‏@BillKingForHou 25m25 minutes ago

In bribery there are 2 criminals, the one paying a bribe and the person receiving it. The taxpayers are the victims. 

Like I said, what am I missing here?  Aside from his lawyer, nobody is really stepping up to defend him.

Commentary has to think that the Houston Firefighters are tired of hearing “we appreciate all you do to keep our city safe, but…..” That’s what they got today from the Chron E-Board. Here is how it starts:

We’re grateful for everything our firefighters do every day. When we need them, we count on them to rush to our aid because the lives they save are literally priceless. But we can’t afford to write them a blank check.

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Firefighters-petition-11284677.php.

Commentary has said it before, it’s politics baby!

No MLB question today, it’s the All Star break.